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Profiling Top Graduate Talent

Over the last 8 years of researching the hearts and minds of young graduates, interesting patterns are emerging – some expected, some very unexpected.

Each year SAGEA (South African Graduate Employers Association) reaches out to graduates who have accepted positions at our member organisations to gather insights from them on their profile, job search preferences and thoughts on Employers of Choice – to date we have collected insights from over 15 000 young graduates!

One thing that has emerged over the last two years as we started to understand when this process starts for them, has been timing. Graduates who are seeking out some of the best opportunities that the market has to offer do not wait till they finish their degree and then pop their head out of the sand and wonder where to find a job. Our insights found that 14% started this process before University, a further 24% in their first year and a further 23% in their second year. Essentially what this is telling us is that by the time it comes to final year, only 39% are actually still reviewing options and trying to make informed decisions.

For some leading organisations, this is good news. The attraction process should not be a once-off event of a career fair for final years – many employers have worked hard at developing career insights for students that speak to the levels of information they need at each year of study. If students are finding this useful and actively engaging at each level of study, then everyone wins.
Some interesting profile information on the successful graduates of 2015:

  • Despite worrying statistics in gender imbalances in corporate South Africa, for some time our members have hired more female graduates than males, with 53% of females making up the graduate hires for 2015/6.
  • Equity candidates make up for two-thirds of our member’s intake – this is particularly good news given that many positions are challenging to fill such as Engineering, ICT, Actuarial, Accounting, etc.
  • As much as employers make choices about which University to recruit from, so students are making these choices themselves. Reputation of the University and reputation of the major or course are key to their selection, followed by geographical choice.
  • The University of Pretoria represents the highest number of graduates hired amongst our members – not surprising when the latest data show over 65 000 students studying there; this is very closely followed by the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Cape Town, and KwaZulu-Natal. It is interesting to note that five Universities accounted for three-fifths of our participants.
  • The demand is clearly for commerce graduates with more than 62% of our members hiring in this space; this is followed by engineering, ICT and law.
  • Besides impressive academic results, these graduates have been busy while at University – 50% of them have had a work experience opportunity with a potential employer while at University. Just less than half of them are doing part-time work to subsidise their living expenses; 38% are doing volunteer work and at least one in three are active members of Student Societies. It is great to see that just on 65% of graduates are entering the world of work with some work experience – making it much easier to assimilate and manage their expectations as to what the real world is all about.
  • Graduates are more than willing to relocate for the right opportunity – just over 60% started their first graduate entry level position in Gauteng!

Next month we get to immerse ourselves in the job search behaviour of young graduates – where do they look, why and what can you do to connect with them!

Join our conversation or join SAGEA to be part of our benchmarking, insights and networks – we would love to see more companies involved.

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One Comment

  1. Carol Butcher Carol Butcher

    A very good article, Cathy; it is very encouraging to learn that so many graduates have had some work experience while at university as this will greatly enhance their employability.

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